KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Before Jamaican security forces stormed into his poor West Kingston neighborhood, George Green got jobs and help with food bills from a fugitive slum boss. Garbage trucks left the cracked streets spotless.

Today, the walls of the Tivoli Gardens housing project are pockmarked with bullets and trash is strewn about after fighting between security forces and gunmen loyal to reputed drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke that left more than 70 people dead.

“I was safe before,” the 48-year-old Green said after being frisked by soldiers who have taken over the complex. “Now, I’m scared just talking to you.”

Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s pledge to crush street gangs and replace their strong-armed rule with social programs for the poor has a hollow ring to it in slums where “dons” like Coke have long provided services and imposed a disciplined law and order the government could never achieve. Slum dwellers have a deep distrust of the police, whom they often see as agents of the country’s elite.

Many Jamaicans also express skepticism that their two main political parties can wean themselves from their decades-old alliances with the underworld bosses.

The political parties built the gangs: Dons received government contracts, and in exchange delivered the votes of their people. Residents were caught in the middle: “The poor are exploited from both sides,” said Yvonne McCalla Sobers, head of the Jamaican rights group Families Against State Terrorism.

For years, citizens turned a “blind eye to escalating criminal violence, accepting as a part of the status quo the acknowledged links between our political actors and organized crime elements,” said Joseph Matalon, head of the island’s private sector group.

But the public has begun to clamor for change after Golding’s initial refusal to extradite Coke – who is wanted in the United States on arms and drug-trafficking charges – and the fatal results of the police raid he later launched to find the fugitive.

Some islanders have taken to the airwaves to angrily demand that Golding cut all ties to the gangs, and business leaders are demanding the government stop awarding contracts to the dons, fearful that foreign investment will dry up.

The main opposition party staged a no-confidence vote against the prime minister, which he survived Tuesday after promising a sustained assault on the gangs.

In the coming days, Golding said, crime laws will be amended to give security forces more resources to battle the gangs, while the government will create new social programs in the slums. He released few details.

“The state must reassert both its authority and responsibility in these communities,” he told Parliament. “But it must be a helpful – not hostile – state.”